The members of the immunoglobulin superfamily (IgSF) control innate and adaptive immunity and are prime targets for the treatment of autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases, and malignancies. We describe a computational method, termed the Brotherhood algorithm, which utilizes intermediate sequence information to classify proteins into functionally related families. This approach identifies functional relationships within the IgSF and predicts additional receptor-ligand interactions. As a specific example, we examine the nectin/nectin-like family of cell adhesion and signaling proteins and propose receptor-ligand interactions within this family. Guided by the Brotherhood approach, we present the high-resolution structural characterization of a homophilic interaction involving the class-I MHC-restricted T-cell-associated molecule, which we now classify as a nectin-like family member. The Brotherhood algorithm is likely to have a significant impact on structural immunology by identifying those proteins and complexes for which structural characterization will be particularly informative.
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